Binoculars have traditionally been quite big and heavy items that you draped around your neck on a strap or lanyard to provide both the degree of magnification and picture quality necessary for comprehensive observation.
Binocular size reduction has become more practical as optical manufacturing processes have improved and optical coatings have enhanced light transmission through the optics of binoculars. Compact binoculars now provide more portability while sacrificing little to no performance.
This is primarily owing to the use of the roof-prism or Dach design to transport light through the binoculars.
Roof prisms divide light into two channels and have a more intricate light path than Porro prisms. This meant that the accuracy with which the roof prism was constructed and installed was historically a considerable component in the cost of such binoculars. While they were lighter and more compact, they were much more costly than the Porro prism designs.
Previously, the Porro prism design was used in the majority of binoculars. This design is bigger and heavier than the roof prism design, although it is not as technically demanding in terms of optical manufacturing quality and accuracy. This provided a pricing and performance advantage that the roof prism could not compete with until recently.
Recent developments in coating technology, particularly after 2005, and better precision of optical manufacturing processes have resulted in the Porro prism design losing its edge, particularly for higher grade compact designs.
Roof prism binoculars are more compact and lightweight than Porro prism binoculars of same specifications. They generally have a straighter barrel on either side of the binocular and weigh much less than their Porro prism cousin. This allows for a considerably more compact binocular that performs as well as, if not better than, its bigger and heavier competition.
Certainly, for the majority of general-purpose applications, the more compact roof prism binoculars are considerably more pleasant to carry about, generally fitting into a shirt pocket, and are much less tiring to hold to the eyes, with little or no loss of performance.
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